I recently posted some thoughts on the difference between wisdom and logic. Which started me thinking about the value of experience. As someone who is middle-aged, I’m beginning to appreciate the value of experience more than I used to. Yet our society is headed in exactly the opposite direction, we tend to value vision and youth over experience.
A recent survey of Canadians age 18 – 25, conducted by Angus Reid on behalf of RSM Richter (an accounting firm), shows that youth today really don’t value experience. 64% indicated that their ideal leader was under the age of 40. A further 56% thought that age was important factor in leadership. In addition, 40% felt that vision was the most important quality of business leadership, while 33% felt that experience was most important.
We are spending more and more time with people our own age. Po Bronson and Ashley Merriman, in their new book, NurtureShock, show that this trend may actually be limiting our children from learning from each other. In fact, it may be creating a whole generation who do not have the ability to understand people who have different experiences due to age.
Yet I can’t help feeling that experience may be an important part of leadership. Not the kind of experience that is the corporate joke, “he has twenty years of experience, that is one year of experience twenty times over.” What I’m talking about is deeply learned experience, that is so deeply rooted that it feels like intuition. Experience can become a trap, assuming that history will repeat itself endlessly. Experience can sometimes cause complacency. No doubt. But experience, open to the world, and combined with humility can go a long way to creating a leader that people can respect.
The more I think about leadership the more I realize that it is a multi-faceted concept. We need to have a balance between vision and execution, between task and people, between personality and experience. No wonder the concept of leadership is so slippery. Learning to be a good leader takes time and experience, but it also takes humility, wisdom, knowledge and passion. Not an easy task.